John Wilkes Booth Is Finally Caught In Manhunt Episode 6

By Jonathon Wilson
Published: April 19, 2024
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Manhunt Episode 6 Recap - John Wilkes Booth's Final Words
Manhunt | Image via Apple TV+




John Wilkes Booth finally meets his end, but Stanton has bigger problems to contend with in the finale.

Let’s not beat around the bush – John Wilkes Booth dies in Manhunt Episode 6. We all knew it was coming, of course, so it’s no surprise, but what is a little unsettling is that “Useless” tries to make us feel sorry for him.

Should we? Booth was an idiot, a murderer, a narcissist, and many other things. But he was also, it turns out, a victim, carrying a fair amount of trauma. The penultimate episode even takes its title, “Useless”, from his final words, which I’ll explain in a bit.

Manhunt Episode 6 Is A Barnstormer – Literally

In the meantime, anyone who’s not exactly fond of Booth should know that this episode spends almost all of its runtime with him. Anyone cursorily familiar with the real history knows he meets his end at the Garrett Tobacco Farm in Port Royal, Virginia, 12 days – seems like longer, doesn’t it? – after his journey began with a bullet to the back of Abraham Lincoln’s head in Ford’s Theatre.

It takes a while to get there, though, and the early going is powered almost entirely by Booth’s delusional narcissism, which while historically accurate can still get a bit wearing. He and Herold spend a good while hiding out in a barn, during which time Booth continues to reassure his reluctant companion that he will somehow magically escape the predicament seemingly on the strength of his sheer self-importance.

It’s immediately ridiculous that Booth thinks this way – and credit should be given to Will Harrison, who plays Herold’s dawning realization that they’re both f*cked to the absolute hilt – which makes it more telling when he unfurls a little more of his backstory.

John Wilkes Booth’s Final Words

Booth’s mother seems to have been delusional too. During a palm reading, she described his hands as the most beautiful she had ever seen, and insisted he would do great things with them. It’s such an odd thing to fixate over, but Booth does, as much as he fixates over his father’s description of him as “useless”, though admittedly for different reasons.

Those are his final words, by the way – after being shot in the head by Union soldier Sergeant “Boston” Cobbett, who isn’t exactly even keel either, Booth chokes out his mother’s comment about his hands and his father’s comment about his ineptitude before breathing his last.

A Grand Conspiracy

Stanton isn’t there for Booth’s death – he arrives shortly after and realizes that his problems are far from over. With Booth dead, Stanton wants to convict all of his known conspirators, including Mary Surrat, David Herold, Samuel Mudd, and Jefferson Davis, on a charge of grand conspiracy.

This is a difficult thing to prove, it turns out. It’s a worthwhile goal, though, since it’ll thoroughly discredit the Confederacy and clear a path for Reconstruction. But it requires unequivocal proof that every link in the chain can be tied together.

The key is Mary Simms. Through her, Stanton can connect Mudd to Surratt and Booth, and through the coded message in Episode 3, he can connect Surratt and Jefferson Davis. It works, just about, and the idea is to hold the trial as a military tribunal under the War Department before a panel of hand-picked military judges, the idea being that assassinating the president was an act of war.

So, the games begin just in time for the finale. Stanton rips out some pages from Booth’s diary that it’s passingly implied in dialogue could “stain his reputation” – look up some of the conspiracy theories about this if you want to know more – and Jefferson Davis is arrested in his wife’s shawl, which Stanton tells the press was a dress.

I mean, now’s not the time to start playing fair, is it? The fate of America is on the line.


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